Joe and I have always worshipped together in various churches in the Church of England - 4 in fact and although Joe's background and heritage was Roman Catholic, he has always been able to live in an ecumenical dimension, holding his personal faith in parallel with the Anglican church. Sometimes he has found it puzzling, amusing and downright frustrating to observe the oddities of the established church of England!
For my part, I started my faith journey in the Methodist church, then 5 years in the Baptist church then eventually the Anglican church, in Jersey, Somerset, London, Wolverhampton, Wordsley and Wombourne.
Our family holidays, - in fact it started with our honeymoon have taken us almost every year to France. We've seen some parts more than once and have yet to visit many others.
|This is how the French children are taught|
to draw their country!
The "hexagone" as it is known here (because of its shape) has an endless variety of countryside, hamlet, village, town and city to explore. From the Alps in the East - including Mont Blanc - which we can see from the top of the ridge above our house - to the breakers and dangerous tides of the Atlantic coast there is much to be explored.
When we worshipped in Wordsley, we were introduced to the music of Taizé. Taizé is a tiny village 8 minutes from our house where an ecumenical group of monks live, worship and share life.
www.taize.fr this tells you a lot more about it than I can on here- and much better than me!
Being curious to learn more, we arranged to take our trailer tent to a camp site from which we could drive to Taizé. We drove over hill and through valley for what seemed ages that very first time, and got there for evening prayer.
There were hundreds of young people milling around and the church, which seats about 6000 (on the floor and with a few benches for the older folk) filled up quickly and as the bells began to ring the brothers, wearing their prayer robes came in - not in an orderly fashion so much as in ones and twos. The church was in silence, as befits a monastic community, and soon one brother began to play the keyboard and the voices were raised and we were transported in faith and in the most wonderful atmosphere of God's presence that it is difficult to describe.
The whole service flowed, with no announcement and with an electronic display to tell you the number of the chant being sung. Then after a psalm, Bible reading and prayer - often translated into several different languages reflecting the nationalities of those present - both monks and visitors, there was silence. A silence so profound that you imagine that it is impossible to have that kind of silence among so many for so long - 10 minutes or so - then intercessions more singing and then the end...except that people stay in the church after most of the brothers are gone, either to consult the few who are left and stand at various points where they can be spoken with, or to continue to sing or to pray in front of the icon of the cross.I wept through the silence the first time I was there; I felt for the first time ever that I was at home in this environment and God did not speak in a whisper, but with a clarity and directness I had rarely ever known.
I can't remember what we said - if anything - on the way back to the campsite, but the seeds were sown in that time of our future in department 71 - Saone et Loire - a department in the Burgundy region.
It was through conversations together, often as we drove through the area when on holiday, that we both separately came to the conclusion that if we were thinking "with our hearts" a phrase one of the brothers of the Taize community used in a Bible introduction we attended one summer, we wanted to be in France more often...did we even dare to think - for all the time? No, I don't think we had quite got that far...step by step...it is less scary that way!
Then we were in a position to buy a house here in France, there was no question that it would be as near as possible to Taizé....and so over 6 years on we are here...
This sets the context for the next blog - about Holy Week 2012 - la semaine sainte.